Wednesday 30 June 2010

Penhaligons: Eau De Cologne

Colognes or Eau De Colognes were and are the starting point for all 'modern' fragrances. The first Cologne of all was famously designed by Giovanni Maria Farina, an Italian who had just moved to Cologne in 1709 when he made his very distinctive perfume and decided to name it after his new home.

Cologne has now become the generic term for a certain type of refreshing, unisex, citrus based perfume- these fragrances are also usually in a lower concentration of fragrance oil than Eau De Toilette and Eau De Parfum.

It seems fitting that Penhaligon's should have it's own
Eau De Cologne, being as it is such an elegant upholder of traditional grooming standards and elegance. This scent is a re-working of their original 1927 cologne and is part of the Anthology collection; all re-workings of classic scents from the Penhaligon's archives.

To create a good cologne seems like a really interesting challenge for a perfumer to me. You are working within quite a tight, even restrictive group of notes and essentially re- imagining a scent that was originally formulated three hundred years ago and has been consistently re-arranged ever since by literally hundreds of perfumers- and all the greats. It is the equivalent of singing a standard for a perfumer; you need to find a way of bringing something new and modern to cologne while ensuring it does continue to be a cologne and not an entirely different type of perfume.

The notes for this are (from Penhaligon's website):

Head Notes
Orange, Lemon, Bergamot, Rosemary

Heart (or middle) Notes

Base Notes
Eau de Cologne has no base notes

So you can see this a completely traditional eau De Cologne in the style of all the greats, 4711, Guerlain and so on. I have been trying this on and off since Penhaligon's kindly sent me a vial a month or two ago and I think it's extremely successful. It's really come into it's own in this very hot weather when I think perfume choices become really difficult- the scent you wear can give you a headache and even make you feel sick if it's too strong in hot weather- and perhaps more worryingly can make the people around you feel ill too- so I like to use something light and refreshing but still interesting and this is all of those.

As you may have gathered I enjoy men's scents as much as women's and quite like wearing a slightly more androgynous scent sometimes. Although colognes have always been made to me and categorised as unisex for me they have always been men's fragrances first in my mind- so I rather love wearing them and challenging some people's ideas (and here I must say it tends to be younger people, mostly women I'm afraid, who seem to expect all of us ladies to smell of flowers, chocolate or a whole cookie mixture bowl full of vanilla all the time).

Obviously for men this scent choice might seem more classic and safe but I think men's fragrances also suffer from often being just too strong and cannot stand when men leave sillage for what seems like weeks in lifts, on staircases and on the tube- it's not cool and it's definitely not good in this weather. This is an elegant choice for a confident man who doesn't need to shout about either his taste or manly credentials because he is perfectly confident with both- and smells great.

Monday 28 June 2010

#musicmonday: It's good to share

As the ever wonderful Lauren Laverne points out in this week's Grazia (yeah I know throw me a bone- I was on a long train journey) the people who stop liking a band when they get big are a rather strange breed of music fan.

I come up against the idea that some friends and contemporaries see to have that when an artist or band get too big or popular they should somehow drop off your radar on a weekly basis.

I have had the debate/ argument about whether you are truly a fan or supporter of an artist if you drop them when they do well countless times in person so I thought I would try in print, to see if I could do better.

Now I and I’m sure most people would freely admit that virtually all music is better heard in a small- ish venue- I’m not sure what the exception might be- Queen maybe- I think I’d have liked to have been at that Wembley gig- or festivals. With a truly great band sharing the experience can be part of the pleasure- look at the Blur reunion performances. The joy of seeing lots of up and coming bands is that you do get to see them in smaller, intimate venues and that’s a great pleasure and privilege- but I don’t now go and see a band at a festival because they are on the main stage- just to spite them for being successful- it doesn’t make any sense. Would I refuse a ticket to see Joni Mitchell say in some big aircraft hanger- no. Would I prefer it if I won a ticket to see her somewhere tiny- yes- but I'd just be grateful to see her at all!

So I admit if you have seen a band fifteen times on the way up you might not be thrilled about seeing them at Wembley on a tv screen. Your relationship to a band though isn’t just about live music it’s about when it’s just you and them on the tube, late at night when you are happy or sad, waiting for people, trying to sleep, trying to find solace, ease nerves, to just have fun. Do I like the Beatles less when they are playing just to me in my earphones because perhaps millions of people are listening to them at the same time? No not really. I don’t care I just care that I love the song I’m listening to. In fact perhaps I love them more because I know they are comforting others at the same time.

Sometimes our enjoyment of an artist can be really affected by their ubiquity in the media and especially from over playing of certain songs. Florence Welch is to my mind over exposed at the moment and if I were her or her management I’d probably think about taking it down a notch. Truly though I think it’s partly a question of the media you consume- some radio stations really over play artists to the detriment of both artist and station but there is nothing an artist can do about that- it would be a strange person who said don’t play my song given the current commercial situation. There is definitely an argument that says you can probably over do the press, but likewise I suppose you don’t want to seem aloof or that you take things for granted.

I got to thinking about other artistic work and whether your fandom decreases as it becomes more popular and perhaps it does and I am just less involved in those circles? I don't think so though- you don't get people saying they don't like Van Gogh because his paintings go for more than £30 million these days do you? I suppose it does follow with comedy though that when someone is playing the Palladium they are suddenly uncool- but not theatre- you don't get people saying Simon Rusell- Beale is rubbish do you?

I think the attitude perhaps suggest you aren't a real fan (the word for fan of course comes from fanatic which I guess we only are about a very few acts at any one time). Perhaps it would be truer to say that you enjoy seeing new music and you are even fond of some groups or artists but there you aren't really a loyal follower in my mind if you drop them once they get their wings. If you truly want someone to do well because you so admire their work and love the way it affects you you are handing out their cd right left and centre, chatting about them, telling people they should check so and so out.

If you don't want to share your adoration for something then perhaps you don't really care for it?

Friday 25 June 2010

Have a good weekend

Enjoy the things you like the most whenever you can.

Pictured: Gorgeous Liberty of London Union Jack scarf very appropriate for any summer activity you choose.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Faking it

Not that.

So I’m back from the land of the free- and it turns out of the fake- fake tans, nails, teeth, I suspect rather more fake faces than I’m used to and just an astonishing amount of fake boobs.

I’m afraid the fakery leaves me cold and in the numerous cases of what must have been barely eighteen year olds with new, large and frankly just silly looking boobs actually quite upset. Boobs are just boobs though, the idea of near children having surgery to change their faces is always something I’ve been uncomfortable with- although I accept that if I had the nose of a Roman general I might feel differently. I am far, far away from perfect and I’m sure if I walked into any cosmetic (not plastic as they do do some remarkable work) surgeon they would like to improve me in many ways- but where does that end?

Nevertheless I am vain and easily led and thus found myself in a salon having my nails done while on holiday. I don’t think is anything wrong with that.

Unfortunately the nails I got given were very wrong, for me. They are gloriously plastic, wide and with those white tips that are sartorial suicide. Great- I paid for this. See I fail every time at being honest when hairdressers, beauticians et al ask if I like something- I always say yes when the answer is no. So when I said something natural looking and started getting anything but I didn’t have the courage to say on what planet is this natural? I actually said yes those are really lovely (it was like an out of body experience).

Now the point of this is not to share my pain with you all- but to say how funny-peculiar the fakery is making me feel. I literally have fake plastic stuck to me with super glue, I cannot get it off with my own hands. It’s not actually how they look it’s how they feel- there is more of me there than there should be and when I touch things, hit the keys, hold the pen, my hand doesn’t feel my own. I can’t open cans properly and when I touch someone, something it’s not quite right; the flesh of the apricots in the shop last night was find under my palms but when my fake hands got the side it felt like nails screeching up a blackboard.

These are just nails. How must it feel to have alien collagen inside you, or indeed have some of your bone cut away, or bits of tissue moved around? Perhaps I am just funny and it feels wonderful to some, most people. It’s not for me though if I’m honest. It might be the path to more mass appreciation (and here my nails are a bad example, there are plenty of people who are cool rather than me with my wide scary white nails, who probably aren’t all they seem, from a fake bake here to some subtle work there) but you have to be comfortable in your own skin don’t you. Or I do- and I’ll take the consequences.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Don't blame it on the sunshine

I am pale- and I like to think interesting- but what is certain is that I am pale, can burn very easily and must look after my skin (although in truth of course everybody should).

Before the holiday a delightful and very appropriate giftMineral sun cream SPF20 of sun cream and foot spritzer arrived from the lovely people at Liz Earle.

From these pages I think you will have gleaned that when it comes to skin care I am committed to natural products- but sun care is extremely important and I have found historically it’s been one of the areas where I have had to compromise and use chemical products and have felt frustrated- so I was keen and hopeful about trying this new, natural option.

Very happily and to be honest with some surprise I can report that the factor 20 sun cream kept my skin from any kind of burning throughout a holiday in very sunny Hollywood (although I used a different, higher SPF on my face- but I always do use a different product on my face). I probably do have some base from the smattering of summer we’ve had in the UK but even taking that into account I was extremely impressed. I genuinely had no redness or soreness starting to appear on my skin and I sat on open top buses, by the pool and on roller coasters (I know, don’t hate me).

The scent is also very pleasant- mostly there is a natural shea better smell with perhaps a little of the green tea ingredient. I was really pleased that it was different to the usual sun cream smell- although there is still something of that lovely, oceanic air of the beach. It is more subtle than the usual onslaught of coconut you get with suncream and therefore- for a fragrance fan like me- allows for also wearing your own perfume without having to worry it will clash badly with your protection.

I had thought the foot spritz was a lovely extra but a product I wouldn’t normally buy and perhaps wouldn’t use overly much. I was completely wrong and was very grateful to have this with me. My feet swelled quite badly which is the first time this has happened to me, although it was a long flight. When I arrived at the hotel and collapsed on the bed the spray was the first thing I reached for- and it worked- my feet were a smaller (I assume the rosemary ingredient helps to get your circulation going), happier and more refreshed almost immediately.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

I swoon for macaroons

I scream for ice- cream too but my real can't resist them, finish the whole box by the time I'm on the bus treat are macaroons. Call me a decadent Marie- Antoinette type if you like but when it comes to sugar (and sugar only) I am happy to be more divine right than democracy. Yes they are frivolous, expensive and filled with calories but I love 'em.

So in an effort to economise and also develop my lil' old self I went to this 'All about Macaroons' class at L'atelier des Chefs between Oxford Street and Marylebone.

The course is £72.00 and lasts two hours- so it's not cheap but it is in a totally state of the art kitchen and you learn in small groups. I didn't attend in a blogging capacity of any kind and spent my hard earned money on this course and I felt I had good value for money; the teaching was interesting and precise but the class still felt like fun and leisure.

I consider myself to be quite a good 'pastry chef' i. e. maker of puddings- but only a fare maker of savoury food and was worried I would struggle. There is no doubt that making macaroons requires concentration but I was amazed that as long as you follow the recipe they are quite easy and you really do get an extremely professional batch of macaroons at the end. I'd have paid for mine!

All this got me to thinking about my fantasy macaroon flavours and so far I've come up with:

Elderflower and gooseberry
Blood orange and rose water
Rhubarb and custard (a personal favourite- I'm going to try and make these!)
Black Cherry

Nom. Nom. Nom.

What flavours of macaroon would you like to buy or make?

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Monday 7 June 2010

Wilton's Music Hall

I am a long time fan of Wilton's Music Hall since seeing it on the BBC Restoration programme. You can read all about the hall here. It is basically one of the last surviving music halls and once you have been there I can't see how you wouldn't want it to be saved. The good news is they have a bar so if you are in the area you can help to save it by going for a drink!

This is an important building though and I think sometimes people think London gets lots of funding but it is a big place and that's not always true- this place really is only going to be savable for a few more years. It is quite lovely, like a chap in a beautifully tailored Saville Row suit who has been out all night and is now a bit rough around the edges and all the more gorgeous for it.

Wilton's are currently working on their website but the page that is up also has lots of information about upcoming events and how you can hire the hall.

Wilton's Music Hall 150th anniversary post available from the very cool

Image from Elephants Graveyard

You can take a virtual tour here.

Or join the Facebook page.

Friday 4 June 2010


I am off on holiday from tomorrow but will (hopefully) be posting from a far via the medium of blogger scheduled posting!

All this week and particularly today though another journey has been on my mind- that made by thousands of soldiers from northern France to the southern coasts of the British Isles during the battle and evacuation of Dunkirk- and by thousands of boats from these islands to get them. I am thinking of our own family hero particularly, not an important man but a very brave and very modest one- so modest in fact that I never knew his Dunkirk story while he was alive. There aren't really enough words to describe how exceptional all the people involved were or how hard it must have been for them. My glass is raised to you all.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Love Potion No. 9 print

Perfume people- you want this don't you? So do I.

Available from This print is £39 which is very reasonable in my opinion. There are lots of other lovely prints available. All are GiclĂ©e prints which her site says 'are guaranteed to not fade or age and have a colour life of 75-100 years. The Giclee printing process ensures a print with brilliant colour and razor sharp detail'. The prints also apparently fit in off the shelf frames being 30x 40cm which is fab because with most of the prints I buy the frames cost more than the pictures.

Found via Daily Candy.

PS. She has a blog too- skip over here to read.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Paperback reader

I am off to America next week and I am, of course, very excited (please don't hate me, it is a much needed holiday).

I would love your help with some recommendations of good paperbacks (for they are light and my suitcase will not be) that I could take with me. Pretty much everything on my wish list seems to have a long delivery time, be in hardback or be far too serious for sun loungers and twelve hour flights.

So if you could help me with paperbacks that will be easy to get in the next few days, are suitable for long plane journeys and attention spans made short by the combination of time changes, sun and hopefully cocktails I would be very, very grateful.

I dream of jewellery: stolen thunder

balloon girl

skipping girl

kite girl

All from Stolen thunder